"Schools are an ideal place for establishing life-long healthy eating habits.”
~Karen J. Coleman
Fresh fruits, low-fat milk options, fresh juices, whole grains. These are just part of what makes up today’s school breakfasts. When the Rowan County School District made the commitment to serving healthier meal options for students’ breakfasts, they did so to help the students learn the merits of starting the day with a healthy meal.
Rowan County Schools’ Food Service Department has been hard at work making healthier breakfast food choice options available for students. While many school districts have struggled to meet the federal school food service requirements established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rowan County School District has been steps ahead.
Research by the American Dietetic Association suggests that students who eat a healthy breakfast can see improvement in memory, test grades and attendance. According to a research brief prepared in 2016 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), “student academic achievement increases, especially for math, when schools offer the School Breakfast Program" and "students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance as well as decreased tardiness.”
Many parents may face a time crunch at home, trying to get children fed, dressed and off to school on time while other parents may be on a tight budget and may not be able to afford some of the healthier breakfast foods. Rowan County Schools’ cooks and food service managers have been working hard to ensure that their students choose to be healthy with their meal selections. Students can select from a variety of breakfast items, including fresh fruits, whole grain toast, yogurt, and cereals containing 9 grams of sugar or less. Other whole grain items, such as whole grain pancakes or waffles, are also being offered.
“With the new and healthier selections in the cafeteria, we are trying to help our students understand the role that food choices play in a healthy lifestyle,” said Jessica Kiser, food service assistant for Rowan County Schools. “In addition to our standard breakfast fare, we also have Grab ‘n’ Go breakfast options that are also made up with healthy breakfast choices.”
Renée Smith, Director of Nursing and School Health Services for Rowan County Schools, sees the changes in school meals as “responsible reforms” to help “do what’s right for kids.” Ms. Smith added, “We are seeing an increase of students in our schools with serious health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased BMI or body mass index. Servings that are made with whole grains, serving the fresh fruits and healthier milk options are helping us to be able to raise a healthier generation of children, battle the national childhood obesity problem, and decrease the likelihood of preventable diseases.”
“I really have to credit our food service staff with the success of our breakfast program,” said Ms. Kiser. “Studies have shown that kids who eat healthier are going to perform better academically. The work that our cooks are doing in our school kitchens is helping to make an impact in the physical health of our students as well as their academic well-being.”